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Scenes and Actions Part 2 – Creating Characters Through Actions

After speaking on the importance and difference in settings and scenes in crafting a screenplay, I’ll speak on the importance of creating your characters through actions. A character’s actions are essential in setting the tone and pace of a script.

A plot or story cannot move forward without the use of action. Each and every action a character makes helps in obtaining the end goal – a resolution. In some cases, a series of actions can leave the resolution open-ended for the audience to draw their own conclusions. In writing my pilot script, I found myself creating a serialized resolution where a strategic move on social media by my main character carried over to the next episode in the series. This allowed me to give my series a serialized focus not many animated series tend to explore.

A friendly tip from me to you is to create a loose outline of actions will happen in a scene. And I do mean loose outline as sometimes an action might seem okay in the initial stage, but doesn’t work when it comes to plotting out your screenplay.

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Actions are all about being visual and timely. With most screenplays taking place in real time, you have to remember that the present tense is your best friend. It will help you keep straight what is going on in your character’s world. Throughout writing my screenplay, I had to keep in mind I was not writing a novel but a project that is meant for the small or big screen. Along with timeliness, action carries the plot visually as your characters exist on a realistic plane (real or fictional). In writing my screenplay, I found myself using various words to illustrate an action like walking – trotting, speeding, creeping. In one scene, I had to write about two characters walking down the hallway in their own ways to show more personality.

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Remember actions have their own levels within the script. Some are big and dynamic while others are nuance and subtle.  This keeps the screenplay from feeling monotone and uninspiring when someone reads the final product. Throughout my screenplays, I use a character’s actions to play in the relationship and dynamic with others. My main character tends to be affectionate and warm with her best friend while she tends to become timid and nonconfrontational when noticing or interacting with her nemesis.

When creating a character’s actions, you need to think about how they speak to the character’s personality and relationships.

In reading this post, I hope you will be able to craft actions that not only influence your characters but your story as well. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.

Come back next week to read about coping and understanding the creativity stopper – writer’s block.

Character Development Part 2 – Dialogue and Actions

After looking at developing a character’s personality and character traits, I’ll be focusing on the importance of dialogue and action in shaping how your characters are perceived.

Every line of dialogue and action in your script should be tailor-made for the character you are writing. When writing for a character, remember to ask yourself these question: would he/she say those words? or Does that action go inline with their personality?

A trick I always use is thinking of the character and their voice when writing the script. A bonus for you would be to create character bios to help keep yourself straight when writing for multiple characters. Sometimes, things can get a little confusing, and those pieces of the puzzle can be a big help in the process.

Dialogue influences action and vice versa. Dialogue is the way a character expresses themselves either verbally or internally (for my inter-dialogue heads). It dictates the audience’s perception of a character – good or bad, nice or naughty, sardonic or good-natured. A character’s words are their calling card. Action, on the other hand, allows the character to express themselves with a sense of physicality. Your character can be a master manipulator, prankster, klutz, athlete, artist, etc. based on their actions.

Both are forms of expression that inform each other in a way that is realistic to human behavior. An action can set a character’s words into motion as a response to another character or a movement. Dialogue sets precedence for any action as a response to another character’s words or lack thereof.  Keep this in mind when writing and rewriting your screenplay.

A book I often refer to when writing dialogue and action:

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Writing the TV Drama Series by Pamela Douglas

 

Hopefully, this post helps you in formulating your actions and lines of dialogue for your script. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.

Come back next week as I go more in-depth about creating the best dialogue for your character(s).

Character Development Part 1 – Traits and Personalities

 

Now, that we’re past feedback and the preliminary editing, I can get into the real matters at hand like dialogue, action. setting and this week’s topic – character development.

The key to any good script is creating great characters. These beings you write on the page help to bring your stories and ideas to life. Each character on the page is a part of you (whether consciously or subconsciously) when you begin writing or revising – fiction, non-fiction or equal parts – your screenplay.

This book can a major help in developing your characters:
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The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writer (3rd Edition) by Christopher Vogler

Let’s get into the business of personalities and personal traits. When writing a script, you must make sure that each character has their own distinct personality. Whether it’s an alpha (male or female), a sidekick or an antagonist, one-dimensionality is not accepted. Even villains have feelings and thoughts that make them complex. The best way to achieve this is by creating personality quirks that set them apart from other characters. A nervous tic. A personal secret. Anything that makes them stand out from the pack.

Here are the archetypes Vogler mentions in The Writer’s Journey:

Hero

The hero is the audience’s personal tour guide on the adventure that is the story. It’s critical that the audience can relate to them because they experience the story through their eyes. During the journey, the hero will leave the world they are familiar with and enter a new one. This new world will be so different that whatever skills the hero used previously will no longer be sufficient. Together, the hero and the audience will master the rules of the new world, and save the day.

Mentor

The hero has to learn how to survive in the new world incredibly fast, so the mentor appears to give them a fighting chance. This mentor will describe how the new world operates, and instruct the hero about the innate abilities they possess while gifting the hero with equipment.

Ally

The hero will have some great challenges ahead; too great for one person to face them alone.  The journey could get a little dull without another character to interact with.

Herald

The herald appears near the beginning to announce the need for change in the hero’s life. They are the catalyst that sets the whole adventure in motion.  Occasionally they single the hero out, picking them for a journey they wouldn’t otherwise take.

Trickster

The trickster adds fun and humor to the story. When times are gloomy or emotionally tense, the trickster gives the audience a welcome break by challenging the status quo. A good trickster offers an outside perspective and opens up important questions as they act as the comic relief to the story or the actions of the other characters.

Shapeshifter

The shapeshifter blurs the line between ally and enemy. Often they begin as an ally, then betray the hero at a critical moment. Other times, their loyalty is in question as they waver back and forth. Regardless, they provide a tantalizing combination of appeal and possible danger by creating interesting relationships among the characters, and by adding tension to scenes filled with allies.

Guardian

The guardian, or threshold guardian, tests the hero before they face great challenges. They can appear at any stage of the story, but they always block an entrance or border of some kind. They were basically saying “Don’t pass go, return back to your nice bubble.” Then the hero must prove their worth through either tricky, intellect or action.

Shadow

Shadows are villains in the story. They exist to create threat and conflict and to give the hero something to struggle against. Like many of the other archetypes, shadows do not have to be characters specifically. It can be any force preventing the hero from obtaining their goal.

archetypes

One note to remember: archetypes are good, stereotypes are not. When writing, you must create characters that are complex beings (human or not) that have real thoughts and feelings. It makes your story more interesting and compelling. There’s no room for one-dimensional tropes.

By writing this post, I hope you are better equipped to take on characters’ personalities and traits. Just remember that story is important, but your characters are what make the story. But this isn’t the end of the conversation, you can leave comments below and discuss this even more with your fellow screenwriters along with myself.

Come back later this week as I speak more about creating a character’s actions and dialogue.

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